Qingming Festival (also known as Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb-sweeping Day), falls on either April 4th or 5th of the Gregorian calendar. The Chinese respect for filial piety and careful attention to funeral rites is visibly manifested in the custom of ancestor worship.
Since ancient times, a day has been designated for sweeping the tomb and honoring one’s ancestors. Though different in each family, these rites are usually performed on the first few days prior to or following Ching Ming, one of the traditional solar divisions falling in early April, when the frost retreats and spring returns bringing renewal to all living things.
When visiting the tomb, people usually bring the dead person’s favourite food and wine, and paper resembling money . This is in the hope that the deceased are not lacking food and money. After burning the paper money, tidying up the tomb, and putting willow branches around the gates and doors of the tomb to ward off evil spirits, people will eat the food and fruit before returning to their homes.
The folklore behind the story is as follows:
It is said that the Qingming Festival was originally held to commemorate a loyal man living in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC), named Jie Zitui. Jie cut a piece of meat from his own leg in order to save his hungry lord who was forced to go into exile when the crown was in jeopardy. The lord came back to his position nineteen years later, and forgot Jie Zitui but later felt ashamed and decided to reward him. However, Jie had blocked himself up in a mountain with his mother. In order to find Jie, the lord ordered that the mountain should be set on fire. Later Jie was found dead with his mother. In order to commemorate Jie, the lord ordered that the day Jie died was Hanshi (Cold Food) Festival – the day that only cold food could be eaten.
The second year, when the lord went to the mountain to sacrifice to Jie, he found willows revived, so he gave instructions that the day after Hanshi Festival was to be Qingming Festival. Later, the two festivals were combined as one.
Qingming Festival is a time of many different activities, among which the main ones are tomb sweeping, taking a spring outing, and flying kites. Some other lost customs like wearing willow branches on the head and riding on swings have added infinite joy in past days. The festival is a combination of sadness and happiness.
Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead person with offerings are the two important parts of remembering the past relatives. Weeds around the tomb are cleared away and fresh soil is added to show care of the dead.
Today, with cremation taking over from burying, the custom has been extremely simplified in cities. Only flowers are presented to the dead relatives and revolutionary martyrs. No matter how respect is shown, good prayers for the deceased are expressed.
All in all, the Qingming Festival is an occasion of unique characteristics, integrating sorrowful tears to the dead with the continuous laughter from the spring outing.
From: Travel China Guide
The Veneralia (April 1) was the Ancient Roman festival of Venus Verticordia (“Changer of hearts”), the goddess of love and beauty. The worship of the goddess Fortuna Virilis (“Bold fortune”) was also part of this festival.
In Rome, jewelry was ritually removed from the statue of the goddess, her image was then taken from her temple to the men’s baths, where it was undressed and washed in warm water by her female attendants, then garlanded with myrtle.
Similarly, women bathed themselves in the public baths wearing wreaths of flowers and myrtle on their heads. It was generally a day for women to seek divine help in their relations with men. Men also asked Venus Verticordia for her help in affairs of the heart, sex, betrothal and marriage.
Here’s a nice ritual for the Day of Venus:
- Color: Sea green, golden, and pink
- Element: Water
- Altar: Upon cloth of sea green, golden and pink, set many shells, flowers, beautiful ornaments, pink candles, hearts, doves, incense of rose and violets, and a great chalice of white wine.
- Offerings: Hearts and flowers. Giving a gift of love to someone.
- Daily Meal: Seafood. Angel hair pasta. Sweet breads, cakes, and desserts.
Invocation to Venus
Hail, Lady of the Morning Star!
You who rose form the sea foam,
Born of the impersonal severed phallus of the sky
Immersed in the impersonal womb of the sea,
You who rode to shore on a shell of pearl
And whose powers no one can resist
Save the virgin goddesses,
You who bring the glow of gold
Into the lives of all whom you touch,
Lady, we revere you as the avatar
Of the love between equals
Who look each other in the eye,
The attraction and pursuit
Between every particle in the universe.
Hail, Lady of the Evening Star!
You who rule the night
With its darker passions,
You who tempt the wistful heart,
You whose hands reach out
To all the world and more,
Lady, we revere you as a force of nature
Far greater than merely the human heart,
For you are the force that binds together
All that dances with another of its kind
In the endless dance of creation.
(The wine is passed around, and poured as a libation to Venus. Each takes a flower and wears it in honor of Venus.)
The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools’ Day.
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
— Poor Robin’s Almanac (1790)
The practice of playing tricks on April 1st dates back to 15th century France. Before that time, New Year’s Day was March 25, with a full week of partying and exchanging gifts until April 1. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar moved New Year’s Day to January 1. This was so unpopular that people began sending officials on “fool’s errands” in retaliation. The term “All Fools,” was probably meant as a deliberate stab at All Saints (November 1) and All Souls (November 2) Day.
Another source reports that when the dates changed, many peasants paid surprise visits to their neighbors on April 1 to trick them into thinking it was still the start of the New Year. Gradually the custom spread around the world, and people look forward to this day as an opportunity to play tricks on their friends and colleagues.
April Fools Superstitions:
- It is considered bad luck to attempt to trick someone after noon on April 1.
- Children born on April 1 are believed to be lucky, except when they gamble.
- If a man gets married on April 1, his wife will dominate him.
- It is considered bad luck to become annoyed when someone plays a practical joke on you on April Fools Day.
- If a young lady plays a practical joke on an eligible man on April Fool’s Day, it is a sign that they will marry.
Weather folklore states:
“If it thunders on All Fools Day,
It brings good crops of corn and hay.”
Around the world:
“All Fools’ Day” is practiced in many parts of the world with practical jokes, hoaxes, and sending people on a fool’s errand.
In Scotland, April Fools Day lasts 48 hours. Day two is know as Taily Day, and pranks involving the posterior are played. The victim’s practical joke is referred to as “hunting the gowk”; the gowk is an extinct cuckoo bird. When used here it mean foolish person.
Dinna laugh, dinna smile.
Hunt the gowk another mile.
In France, victims of the prank is the “poisson d’Avril” or “fish of April.” The fish in April are newly hatched and easily caught. French children enjoy taping a picture of a fish on their friends back and yelling out “Poisson dAvril!” when it is found.
In the United States, pranks are played on just about everybody. Pranks range from the standard “Your shoe is untied”, to some very creative and elaborate ideas. The only “rule” is that no one should be harmed. Corporations, newspapers, and television stations will also play practical jokes on the public on April Fools Day.
Pranks and fun aside, this is a good day to consider the nature of the Fool and his associations with The Craft.
Fools have long been considered to be blessed by the Gods; indeed it used to be thought lucky to meet one on the way to work. The Fool is the first card in the Tarot where he represents the start of the magical journey and the step into the unknown. He is also still represented in decks of ordinary playing cards by the Joker or Jester.
The Fool is also linked with the Jester in his role of storyteller, or Bard, who traveled around taking news from place to place. Not only that but with connotations of riotous frivolity he is associated with fertility festivals and may appear as the Teaser in midsummer Rites.
His staff or wand with bells relates back to the sticks which were used to beat fertility into the population at the festivals of Pan. Hence he is linked with the trickster Gods Puck and Loki.
To gain a greater understanding of the Fool take this card from a Tarot deck and place one green and one red candle on either side. Light them and focus on the image before you. As you meditate on it, consider the journey of the Fool:
- Where is he going?
- Who will he meet?
From: The Real Witches’ Year, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, and various other sources.
I was unable to find any information on the dates of Geranium day for 2017, and it’s possible that this day is no longer celebrated. The two collection dates for 2016 were Friday 22 April and Friday 20 May 2016.
The English sell geraniums today to collect funds for charities, specifically those that support services for the blind. Since the 1920’s this has been a day in England to collect money for the blind. It represents a joint effort by a number of charities dedicated to helping the blind and is organized by the Greater London Fund for the Blind.
Although at one time real geraniums were given to those who made donations, these days contributors receive a sticker with a red geranium on it. And there are now two collection days—one in the City of London in April and one in the greater London area in May.
The choice of the geranium—a flower without a strong scent—seems unusual as a symbol for the blind, but it may have been chosen simply because the poppy ( see Memorial Day) and the rose ( see Alexandra Rose Day) were already being used for fund-raising purposes. It may also have been chosen for its symbolic meaning.
In the language of flowers, geraniums represent solace – which is what any act of charity stimulates today. It provides hope to those in need. Even if your pocket is empty, extend assistance to someone or something in need. Offer to help an elderly friend with chores, give some returnable bottles to a homeless person, act as a big brother or sister to orphans, give water to a stray cat. Benevolence has many forms, and it makes the world a much nicer place in which to live.
Source: The Free Dictionary
The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
On April 15th, every year, the Ancient Romans held the festival of Fordicia, also called Hordicidia. This festival was in honor of Tellus, or Terra Mater, the Roman personification of the earth.
Terra Mater or Tellus Mater was a goddess personifying the Earth in Roman mythology, with both names meaning “Mother Earth” (a common metaphorical expression for the Earth and its biosphere as the giver and sustainer of life) in Latin. She was associated with Ceres in respect to growing crops, was responsible for the productivity of farmland, and was also associated with marriage, motherhood, pregnant women, and pregnant animals. Her Greek counterpart is Gaia.
During the festivities, a pregnant cow was sacrificed, the calf fetus burned and the ashes saved for the Parilia festival (an agricultural festival performed annually on April 21). The whole event was governed by the Vestal Virgins and the Pontifex Maximus.
The purpose of the sacrifice was to assure the fertility of the planted grain already growing in the womb of Mother Earth in the guise of Tellus, to whom the sacrifice was offered. As with certain other rituals over which the Vestals presided, the unborn calf is a liminal or mediating being: not yet born, but living; not a full-fledged victim, but sacrificed. The role of the Vestals emphasizes their importance in linking through the ritual reuse of elements the Earth’s fertility, the health and safety of the flocks, and the security of the city, including and especially its military security against invasion.
A similar spring festival in China was witnessed in 1804 by the British ambassador to China, John Barrow. At the temple of Earth, a large porcelain cow was carried in procession then shattered to reveal several small cow-images inside. These were distributed among the people as tokens of a good growing season. Fowler speculated that the Chinese rite was in origin an animal sacrifice similar to that of the Fordicidia.
A Ritual For Tellus Mater
- Color: Green
- Element: Earth
- Offering: Go outside the community and find land to clean up.
- Daily Meal: Vegetarian
Altar: Upon a green cloth place several large stones of different sorts, some in a clay bowl of water; a clay bowl of salt, a loaf of thick, nourishing black bread with herbs and vegetable gratings in it, a chalice of herbal tea, boughs of greenery, and four green candles.
Invocation to Tellus Mater
Our Mother lies beneath our feet
And holds up our every step.
There is nowhere that we can walk
Where She does not lie beneath us.
There is nothing that we can eat
That will nourish our bodies,
Those bodies that are made from Her clay,
That does not come from Her
And Her other children.
We are born of Her
As we are born of woman,
Each and every one of us.
No matter who we are,
No matter where we walk,
No matter what we think,
We are still Her children.
Hail, Mother of All Things!
Hail, bounteous one, giver of life,
And taker of life back into your breast.
From you we all proceed
And to you we shall all return.
The Earth is our mother, we must take care of her,
The Earth is our mother, we must take care of her,
Hey and a ho and a ho na na
Hey and a ho and a ho na na
(All join hands while chanting and move in a spiral dance around the room, four times in and out. Then the bread and tea is passed around. It is important that much work be done on the Earth today, both in and out of the community’s land.)